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Abe urges China to lift ban on imports of Japanese rice
Kyodo) _ Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe urged China on Sunday to lift its ban on imports of Japanese rice during his meeting with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, Japanese officials said. Abe also told Wen that Japan wants to start chartered flights between Tokyo's Haneda airport and Shanghai's Hongqiao airport by the end of this year.

The two leaders met on the sidelines of a series of multilateral meetings involving the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations and their regional dialogue partners on the Philippine resort island of Cebu.

In the meeting, Abe was quoted as telling Wen that Japan "wants to promote negotiations" on China's resumption of Japanese rice imports.

Wen responded that China will give positive consideration to the proposal, according to the officials.

Farm ministers of the two nations are expected to discuss the issue at their meeting this week The Japanese government has been eager to see China lift the import ban as Japan plans to boost exports of agricultural products.

China had been importing rice from Japan but imposed the ban on the imports in early 2003 when it found bugs originating in Japan in rice imported from the country.

Some analysts say that Japanese brand rice will become popular once the ban is lifted because Japanese dishes such as sushi are becoming increasingly popular in China on the back of China's strong economic growth. Retail prices of Japanese rice are expected to be much higher than rice produced in China.

As for Abe's call for an early start of the Haneda-Shanghai flight, Wen said China will consider the proposal.

Japan and China agreed to examine the plan to link Haneda and Shanghai during Abe's visit to Beijing in October last year.

In December, Japanese Land, Infrastructure and Transport Minister Tetsuzo Fuyushiba and Chinese officials including State Councilor Tang Jiaxuan agreed in a series of talks in Beijing to overcome legal and technical obstacles that currently stand in the way of linking the two airports that are primarily used for domestic flights.

Abe and Wen also reaffirmed that the two nations will strive for a solution to a bilateral row over gas exploration rights in the East China Sea by promoting joint development.

The gas exploration row stems from unsettled demarcation of the East China Sea, where the two nations' economic waters overlap.

A Chinese consortium has been developing gas fields in an area of the sea close to waters Japan claims, and Tokyo is concerned the action could siphon off resources from what it claims to be the Japanese side.
MGR Archive 15.1.2007
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